WASHINGTON - More than 90 individuals were arrested and more than five million packets of finished designer synthetic drugs were seized in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic designer drug industry responsible for the production and sale of synthetic drugs that are often marketed as bath salts, Spice, incense or plant food. More than $36 million in cash was also seized.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that as of July 26, more than 4.8 million packets of synthetic cannabinoids (ex. K2, Spice) and the products to produce nearly 13.6 million more, as well as 167,000 packets of synthetic cathinones (ex. bath salts), and the products to produce an additional 392,000 were seized.
Operation Log Jam was conducted jointly by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Food and Drug Administration€™s Office of Criminal Investigations, as well as countless state and local law enforcement members in more than 109 U.S. cities and targeted every level of the synthetic designer drug industry, including retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers.
"Although tremendous progress has been made in legislating and scheduling these dangerous substances, this enforcement action has disrupted the entire illegal industry, from manufacturers to retailers," said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart. "Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we are committed to targeting these new and emerging drugs with every scientific, legislative and investigative tool at our disposal."
Over the past several years, there has been a growing use of, and interest in, synthetic cathinones (stimulants/hallucinogens) sold under the guise of "bath salts" or "plant food." Marketed under names such as "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Vanilla Sky" or "Bliss," these products are comprised of a class of dangerous substances perceived to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA and/or methamphetamine. Users have reported impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia, and violent episodes. The long-term physical and psychological effects of use are unknown but potentially severe.
These products have become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults and those who mistakenly believe they can bypass the drug testing protocols that have been set up by employers and government agencies to protect public safety. They are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet.
Smokable herbal blends marketed as being "legal" and providing a marijuana-like high have also become increasingly popular, particularly among teens and young adults, because they are easily available and, in many cases, they are more potent and dangerous than marijuana. Just as with the synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids are sold at a variety of retail outlets, in head shops and over the Internet. Brands such as "Spice," "K2," "Blaze," and "Red X Dawn" are labeled as incense to mask their intended purpose.
The DEA has used its emergency scheduling authority to combat both so-called bath salts and synthetic marijuana, temporarily placing several of these dangerous chemicals into Schedule I of the CSA. Congress has also acted, permanently placing 26 substances into Schedule I of the CSA.
In 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to synthetic "Spice" and "bath salts." In 2011, that number jumped to more than 13,000 calls. Sixty percent of the cases involved patients 25 and younger.